Units of Work

Collecting natural lines

Early Years

Meager, line, drawing, natural, environment, nature, recording, collection

Looking for instances in the natural environment of the elements that go to make up a drawing or painting is the theme explored here. In this unit 'line' is featured. Children are taken on a walk, and encouraged to look for, and collect, lines in the environment.

Here are some ideas about natural lines. Before starting this unit it is worth taking a look at the unit 'drawing lines'. In any case, it is important to talk with the children about lines and make sure that they understand the basic concept.

Take the children on a walk to hunt for natural lines. For example, children could collect twigs, grasses and sticks or look for the lines that winter trees make against the sky, lines of ripples in a pond, the line of a snail trail, lines in cobwebs, a line of footprints and lines in the bark of trees.

Take a camera and let the children, in turns, take photographs of natural lines. They could draw some of the lines in a small sketchbook. Which lines are practical to take back to school? The photographs will be a good record of the other lines the children found.

Back in school make a display all about natural lines. Add the found material from the walk, the photographs, the children's line drawings and other resources that show natural lines.

The children could use some of the natural material to make a collage of lines. Alternatively, they could be helped to make a relief printing block with the lines and use it to make line prints. Look at the unit 'printing lines'.

Older and more experienced children could move on to making an observational drawing of natural lines. For example, they might draw a winter tree. Ask children to look carefully at all the lines that branches and twigs make against the sky. Talk about the lines and ask the children questions about them. When the children are focused on the task, ask them to draw one of the trees, looking carefully at all the lines they can see.

If you are working with one child it is possible to talk them through a drawing by repeating questions and suggestions about lines at regular intervals. This should prompt the child to look again at the lines they can see in the tree and then continue to draw appropriate lines on their paper. This shared activity, adult and child focusing together on lines, offers powerful learning opportunities for children.

  • Adapted and expanded from pages 21-24 'Teaching Your Children Art No. 1, Early Years, Line Shape and Drawing', Nigel Meager, 1996, NSEAD. Please visit the NSEAD web site for information about ordering this book.

  • Look at the unit 'water with coloured inks and oil pastels'. Also try 'story maps'. Even quite young children will enjoy making 'wire mobiles' although they will need your help.

The natural environment, paper, drawing media that make strong clear lines, a camera and film.